Nothing’s first product was a pair of wireless headphones called the Ear (1) which managed to deliver an impossible level of hype with great performance and solid features for $99. With the equally publicized company smartphone now in natureNothing comes down to headphones once again with a follow-up called Ear(stick) which, like Apple’s AirPods, is designed for those who value comfort over blocking out the noise of the world.
As with all wireless headphones that feature active noise cancellation, the original Ear (1) headphones relied on interchangeable silicone tips that were designed to fit snugly in the ear canal to create a tight seal and soundproof. It’s an effective approach for those who want silence, but often uncomfortable, especially when the headphones are worn for a long time. So the new ear (stick) uses a semi-in-ear design similar to AirPods that rests in the creases of the ear while directing sound to the ear canal. Therefore, the new headphones do not offer active noise cancellation.
With a new custom 12.6 millimeter driver, larger than the 11 millimeter drivers of the Ear (1)-the new ear (stick) will simply try to drown out unwanted sounds with whatever you’re listening to. The semi-in-ear design means some sound will inevitably leak out, but nothing promises to get around that limitation with a feature called Bass Lock Technology that uses all three mics in each earbud to measure leaky low frequencies and then compensates for loss through automatic EQ adjustments.
Most wireless headphone makers try to outdo themselves with ever-smaller charging cases that disappear into a pocket, but to date, that hasn’t been Nothing’s approach. The original ear (1) had a charging case with a dimple in the lid allowing it to be used as a makeshift spinner, but the charging case for the ear (stick) is more like a stick cylindrical lipstick requiring the bottom to be twisted to access the buds inside.
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For those who find themselves mindlessly opening and closing the lid of a charging case, twisting the ear (stick) case can serve as another activity to help burn off nervous energy. However, the case also offers functional benefits, especially for those who are prone to accidentally dropping their devices. Unlike headphones in a charging case with a hinged lid that can open on its own when dropped, sending the headphones flying, the ear (stick) case keeps them safe at all times.
Nothing promises improved wireless connectivity to the ear (stick) thanks to a redesigned antenna in the stems that sits farther from the user’s face to help minimize blocked signals. The on-ear stalks (stick) also swap out the touch strip that facilitated on-ear swipe gestures (1) with tap or squeeze controls instead which are supposed to be a more reliable way to control playback , take calls or adjust the volume. .
Battery life is claimed to be up to seven hours with the earbuds alone, while the charging case provides an additional 22 hours of use when you’re away from a power source. Fast charging is also available, with a 10-minute docking station in the case promising an additional two hours of listening time. That’s slightly less than the Ear’s battery life (1), even with the added consumption of ANC.
It’s probably no surprise that the most seamless in-ear (stick) experience is pairing the wireless headphones to the phone (1), with often-used controls readily available in the phone’s quick settings while the headphones are paired. But all of the same features will be available through the new Nothing X app which will soon be available for iOS and Android devices.
Last week, Carl Pei announced on Twitter that Nothing raised the price of the Ear(1) wireless headphones to $149 and cited “increased costs” as the main reason. What probably played a bigger role in this price hike, which goes into effect today, is that the new in-ear (stick) will now be Nothing’s entry-level wireless headphones, supporting that price of $99. If both options had the same price, the version with ANC would be the obvious choice.
You’ll have to wait until November 4 to purchase the new Nothing Ear (stick), which will go on sale starting at 5:30 a.m. EST in 40 different countries.
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